destroy all neighbors
Credit: RLJE/Shudder

Destroy All Neighbors Review: Prog-Rock Valhalla

We’ve all had horrible neighbors at some point. Most of us don’t accidentally kill them, though, no matter how loud the music gets. Shudder’s new horror-comedy has a lot going on beneath the boisterous characters, sick tunes, and gross effects, but not everything about Destroy All Neighbors harmonizes well together.

Sound engineer William Brown (Jonah Ray Rodrigues) has a lot going on in his life outside of the day job he hates. He’s trying to finish an album, not sabotage his relationship with a successful lawyer, and deal with some deep personal issues. All the while, he’s determined to single-handedly make everyone understand what progressive rock truly is.

Life becomes less glam, however, when a new neighbor named Vlad (Alex Winter) moves in next door and begins making too much noise. In what could have been a silly argument, the new annoying tenant winds up dead, and it looks like William’s fault. But that’s just the beginning — and some neighbors simply don’t know when to die.

There are a few parts of the film I truly enjoy, and the intro sequence is one of them. These opening credits have a classic feel horror feel, retro ‘80s, but specifically to the films that were capturing the essence of all those ‘50s creature features they grew up with. The title splatter itself instantly reminded me of Zombies Ate My Neighbors, which helped set an excellent mood in front of a grotesque and intriguing tunnel of innards.

I’ve heard this genre referred to as splatter-comedy, but it’s less relentless gore and more like Nickelodeon-style gross-out for adults. There are a lot of make-up effects and bodily fluids here that range from slightly twisted to moderately cheesy. Most of these are accompanied by era-appropriate lighting, and remind me of Freddy Krueger’s antics in his later movies.

The writing here kept me interested at first. I was dying myself (of laughter) during the entire sequence where the main character figures out how to dispose of a body from YouTube tutorials. Many of the scenes are enjoyable, silly, and the dialogue is rarely boring. The main couple shares an electric flirtatious chemistry, while some ridiculous lines stuck with me long after the credits.

Comedy and characters sell the film. There are some absolutely funny moments and even the absurd bits feel somewhat genuine, probably because of that chemistry I already mentioned between many of the actors. It’s always cool seeing Thomas Lennon and Kumail Nanjiani in smaller roles, almost everyone is delivering something enjoyable whenever they’re on screen in this movie. I especially thought Kiran Deol did a fantastic job in her role as Emily. The two lead actors are also listed as producers for Destroy All Neighbors, so maybe that hands-on approach helped in these scenes.

The main attraction for many here will be Alex Winter as Vlad — the over-the-top, music-loving, slightly gross neighbor with a bad temper. He’s like a mythical Romanian nomad who thrives off of EDM. But when he becomes Vlad the Impaled, he could be Willy’s best hope of finishing his album — or his biggest roadblock yet. His accent, make-up, and mumbling can make him hard to hear sometimes, however. Overall, though, Vlad is simultaneously the best and most annoying character out of the ensemble.

Destroy All Neighbors has a wonderful premise, but like some of those themed albums William mentions, it goes off the rails a tad. There aren’t too many obnoxiously long solos, however, as the movie is only 85 minutes and knows when to hold the encore (there are no post-credit scenes or sequel teases). I did want more with these characters, watching them try to help William when he couldn’t get out of his own way, just seeing the disaster unfold, I loved the laughs I found in the sicker moments.

I’d recommend Destroy All Neighbors only to certain people. The film keeps trying to tell us that prog-rock isn’t for everyone, and neither is this. But if you can jam out to Brain Salad Surgery and dig a good gore effect, you’re in for a treat.

Score: 7/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.

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